Justice League Shazam!

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Levi and Grazer
dir David F Sandberg
scr Henry Gayden
prd Peter Safran
with Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Grace Fulton, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Adam Brody, Michelle Borth, Meagan Good, Ross Butler, DJ Cotrona, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews
release US/UK 5.Apr.19
19/US 2h12 Warners

strong hounsou brody
Aquaman (2018) Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

Aimed squarely at the teenage fanboy in everyone, this superhero movie is relentlessly entertaining. It's a gleeful mashup of silliness and angst, dropping throwaway punchlines and witty references into each scene, including the big action mayhem. And best of all is that DC Comics doesn't run from its primary-colour roots this time, finally stepping out of those gloomy grey shadows.
In Philadelphia, 14-year-old Billy (Angel) has just moved into a new foster home when he finds himself in a magical cave where a wizard (Hounsou) grants him the powers of the gods. When he shouts, "Shazam," he becomes a grown man (Levi), and his new foster brother Freddy (Grazer) becomes his biggest fan. Meanwhile, Thad (Strong), rejected by the wizard as a child, has figured out how to wield the powers of the seven deadly sins, which the wizard had locked up. Can Billy figure out his own abilities in time to stop Thad?
Director Sandberg keeps the pace brisk, propelling the story along while peppering scenes with a wide range of gags. Each of the characters has a big personality and speaks his or her mind, including the other foster siblings Mary, Darla, Eugene and Pedro (Fulton, Herman, Chen and Armand). And undergirding everything is a subtle exploration of identity and belonging, along with the more overt messages about personal responsibility and maturity. Although it's this adult superhero's childishness that makes him indelible.

Levi has a great time playing scenes as a 14-year-old in a man's body, relishing the script's goofy touches as well as the bonkers physicality (there's even a cool nod to Big). Angel is also excellent, especially has he plays Billy's more serious moments. And both bounce superbly off the terrific supporting cast, including the always watchable Strong in a rather thankless villain role. Thad has his own inner demons but the script doesn't really let him deal with them aside from embarking on wholesale destruction.

While these events take place in a world where Batman and Superman are present, this film's tone is the polar opposite. The brooding, desaturated gloom has been swept aside; this film is bright and sometimes downright ridiculous. Combined with a character focus, this makes action sequences exhilarating and even resonant, violent without being deliberately destructive. All of this builds to a terrific climax and a finale that sets things up for future adventures. Surely the other DC heroes will want to join in on the fun.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 2.Apr.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall